For if the eminence of the Divine Essence surpasses the purest power of angelic contemplation, how will the happiness of human nature be able to contemplate the Divine Essence?
- Eriugena, Periphyseon, Irish, 9th century
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
- 1 John 3.2
Eriugena wondered how we as mere humans would ever be able to look into the face of Jesus. He was asking a most important question, especially in the light of what John promises – that a day is coming when we shall see Him as He is.
We remember that Moses desired to see the face of God; but God warned him, that was neither possible nor safe (Ex. 3.18-20). In the Old Testament, when people were confronted by an angel, they generally fell face first on the ground, so overwhelming was the radiance of the glory of even an angel.
So how is it that we’ll be able to see Jesus “as He is”?
And is it possible even today to glimpse that glorious visage?
The apostle Paul said that the glory of God may be known in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4.6). Yes, but how can we access the face of Jesus Christ? Scripture provides descriptions of Jesus’ face, notably in Revelation 1 and on the mount of transfiguration, and here is where we can begin to contemplate the glory of Jesus’ face.
We cannot see the actual face of Jesus now, because we could not bear to see it. The beauty, grandeur, power, and brilliance of the glory-filled face of Jesus would wilt us, so sinful are we in so many ways. Even one so holy and close to Jesus as the apostle John fell to his face before the radiance and might of the face of Jesus.
Still, enough descriptions of Jesus can be found throughout God’s Word to provide plenty of substance for hours of meditating on the glory of God in His face. By contemplating Jesus as He is revealed in the Psalms, in certain of the prophets, and in Revelation and the gospels, we can begin to assemble an idea, albeit incomplete, of the face of Jesus, that can fill our souls with hope, joy, boldness, assurance, thanksgiving, and love. Yes, this takes time, time alone meditating on the beauty of the Lord. But the more we do so, the more the glory of Jesus affects us deeply, transforming us into that same likeness (2 Cor. 3.12-18).
Because glory radiates from the face of Jesus, the glory that is being revealed in the creation around us can give us some insight to His face as well (Ps. 19.1-4). Even today, creation flashes and oozes the glory that is Jesus, inviting us to consider the true nature of beauty, wisdom, goodness, order, stability, power, and love. If we can observe the glory of God in creation, we can enhance our idea of the face of the Lord.
Yet as beautiful, breathtaking, and sublime as the glory of creation can be, even that will be nothing more than a glimpse of the glory that is the face of Jesus.
But a day is coming, John reminds us, when we will see Him as He is, see Him face to face, and not have to fear annihilation, because we shall be like Him. We cannot bear to look on Him now because He is too glorious, but a day is coming when we shall be with Him in glory, and then we may look on Him without fear.
Indeed, in that day He will be the light of all creation, and we will dwell forever in that light, full of joy and praise. For the face of Jesus satisfies our every need and desire, fills us with peace and joy unspeakable, and makes all other sights pale into insignificance.
So, although we may not look directly upon Him now, let it suffice for us to turn the eye of faith on our exalted Lord and King, being guided by His Word and creation to as true a contemplation as we can know in this life, one which will prepare us with great joy and anticipation for our face-to-face meeting with Jesus one day soon. And let us make our way in life in the light of Jesus’ face, seeing Him seeing us, and rejoicing in His shepherding care and love.
Will you contemplate the face of Jesus today?
1. Which passages of Scripture are most helpful for you in contemplating the face of Jesus?
2. How can you make some time each day for contemplating Jesus?
Psalm 17.6, 7, 15 (Park Street: All You that Fear Jehovah’s Name)
When I have called, You answered me, Lord; hear now my fervent, seeking word!
Let kindness flow at Your command. Keep and preserve me by Your right hand,
keep and preserve me by Your right hand.
But as for me, Lord, save and bless! Let me behold Your righteousness.
Your face in glory I would see, and thus forever blessed be,
and thus forever blessed be.
Teach me how, O Lord, to look upon You with the eye of faith, and help me today to…
A glorioius vision of Jesus
Praise the Lord with us
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T. M. Moore
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Eriugena, p 31.